Slam Online has a nice quote from newly acquired backup Knick center Ronny Turiaf that seems to indicate that he’s ready to step up to be a leader:
“I can’t speak of the past because I wasn’t there on a regular basis so I can only speak for myself and what I know I can bring to the table. All I’m gonna tell you is that we are going to have guys that want to play hard, guys that’s definitely coming here to win, to make the necessary sacrifices to win basketball games. So I’m not here to speak about the past, but the future. We’re going to play team basketball. We are going to be playing together and everybody moving in the same direction. We are all here to win basketball games—not to lose. That’s something that people need to understand is that we will do whatever it takes, whatever we have to do to make that happen. I have talked to plenty of guys on the team already. I was on vacation with Gallo[Danillo Gallinari. I have been working out with Stoudamire every day. I have worked out with Toney Douglas. I have talked to Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton. And of course my two partners from Golden State Azubuike and Randy [Anthony Randolph]. So I’ve been in contact with a lot of those gus and I think they are excited and there is one key word: winning.”
Some of the comments on the site seem misguided, saying that if Turiaf is the team’s leader then we’re screwed, or that Amar’e better be the leader since he’s the best guy on the team. Being a leader and being the best player on a team are two vastly different things. For proof, look no further than the championship Lakers who count Derek Fisher, perhaps their sixth best player, as the captain who’s voice the team probably listens to most (yup, even more than Kobe). Or taking it to a further extreme, they’re coached, and thus lead, by Phil Jackson, a man who was a mediocre backup forward that struggled to score. Isiah Thomas was a phenomenal player, but he was disastrous when trying to lead the Knicks as general manager or coach. Even when he played, his fellow guard Joe Dumars was equally (if not more) the team’s leader. Dwight Howard is the best player on the Magic, but Jameer Nelson is the leader both on and off the court (he frequently organizes team outings).
So while we will be in trouble if Turiaf is our leader in scoring or rebounding, the universally loved man could be a great emotional/vocal leader. That said, it does seem like Stat will be a leader too. He hasn’t shied away from the media or tried to deflect that the future of the franchise rests on his shoulders. He not only seems to be willing to speak for the team, he’s excited to do it. I think these two guys could be a nice combo: one capable of amazing athletic feats, the other one incapable of being outworked.
On a completely unrelated note, it seems that Rajon Rondo has withdrawn from the USA team competing for the World Championship. He cited the extremely vague sounding reason that he has
“some family matters to attend to and some things to take care of before the NBA season.”
I phrased it so darn cynically ‘cuz earlier in the day it’d been reported that he felt he was on the bubble of the team and could be cut after receiving a DNP-CD (Did Not Play-Coach’s Decision) in the exhibition game against Spain Sunday. His withdrawal reeks of the same stink as when Isiah Thomas “decided” to turn down the Knicks’ recent new job offer… after he’d been called by the league and told they felt it would be a conflict of interest for him to work in both the NBA and college hoops at the same time. That said, I could be completely wrong. Perhaps Team USA didn’t offer Rondo this opportunity to exit graciously and there really is some family issue. Nah, ‘cuz the statement says he has family matters and just some general things to take care of. If there truly was some family emergency, they would’ve only mentioned the family stuff. Although it’s still possible that he was a hero for leaving the team if he did it so that the coaches wouldn’t have to make a hard decision and so his teammates like Danny Granger, Kevin Love and Eric Gordon could all be assured of making the team. Regardless, he played like a warrior for that team, and it’s unfortunate someone as great as him wasn’t able to help fight for the Gold.